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Crowdsourcing Innovation: Johnson Jeng, Pine64

Crowdfunding sites are offering a new path for inventors with original ideas. We talk to inventors looking to gain the public’s favour...

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 Name:  Johnson Jeng

 Job title:  Co-Founder

 Organisation: PINE64 Inc.

 Location:  Silicon Valley, US

 

Product:PINE64 A64 Single Board Computer

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What it does & how it works:

It is an affordable single board computer running ARM A53 Chip with CPU, GPU Ethernet and 4K HDMI built in. You are able to build your own Android computer or custom project with this board.

What makes it special?

We are the most affordable 64 Bit quad core Single board computer that has everything you need to build your next project. Affordable – most definitely, starting at $15.

What’s your background, and what inspired you to come up with the idea?

My background is in consumer electronics.  I have another company that has been working on a consumer electronics home based voice recognition device and our device needed to be run on some sort of affordable board.  We were doing research and development when I ran into an old friend TL who was working on a project requiring the similar board technology.  TL had the technical experience in designing boards and I know how to make an idea a sellable product, so we teamed up and here we are.

Why Kickstarter?

Kickstarter has a very techy focused crowd that attracts tons of makers, builders, and designers.  Tapping into such market is a good way for us to get started and raise a little bit of money to put the board into production.

Is Crowdfunding good for innovation? How so?

It can go both ways, sometimes people see crowdfounding as bad, and sometimes as good.  Personally, I think it is a great idea to vet your idea before going into mass production. It’s sort of like dipping your foot in the water to test the temperature before you jump head first into the pool.  By using crowdfunding services, you’re able to gauge the market and see which product or direction they like the most, so you can dedicate your resources in focusing on that.

Reactions on KS so far?

It’s been great. We reached our goal in less than 3.5 hours and we’re already over 1000% funded at $386,000+  on our 3rd day. Momentum has slowed definitely but we hope to continue the upwards trend.

What have you learned from your campaign?

When you launch a successful product, be sure to have lots of Red Bull or Monster Energy Drink, because you wont be sleeping for awhile.  The first few days we were bombarded with emails, calls, and messages and we’re still trying our best to play catch up.

When is the product due to ship?

Early Bird pledgers will start to receive their boards in February as we’re already in production, the rest will ship in March, April and so on as we can only make so much boards each month.

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Who are you aiming the Pine a64 at, and how do you plan to compete with likes of Raspberry Pi, Beagleboard etc.?

We want to bring affordable computing to everyone. Raspberry Pi can't run Android while ours can run full Android 5.1.1. Beagleboard is great and can run Android, but it’s also $55 compared to our $15.  We hope by bringing the board to the masses of developers, engineers, educators, we can help shape the future of technology.

Do you think the rise of small development boards mean the hobbyist programmer/maker community is growing more?

Definitely. This year alone we saw the $9 CHIP, $5 Raspberry Pi Zero, and now the $15 PINE A64 board hit the spotlight in affordable computing.  All 3 boards are great boards and each have their special usage purposes. I would say to keep an eye out for these sub $20 boards on the market.

What sort of use cases do you see people using the Pine a64 for?

We’ve had schools reach out to want to order our boards for educational and academic use, and there are individuals that want to build their very own 4K media player. The rest can use it to build billboard display modules, and even gaming machines.

Possible business use/advantage?

Companies have already reached out to use our board to build devices such as portable printers, kiosks, billboard display modules, 3D printer computers, and more. With our specs more powerful than most products in its category and priced significantly lower, we’re able to help businesses lower costs in their production.

What’s next for the company and the product?

We are exploring possibly higher memory and more powerful chips, capable for us to run Windows operating system, and when that happens, we would be able to make a true laptop come to life running Windows which then we can market towards the mass market consumers as opposed to makers and developers. 

 

 

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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